Rantings of a Madman
“Madman Across the Water” or “Lunatic Fringe” , take your pick (music titles and lyrics always pop into my head.)
Just wanted to get out of my brain my ideas, thoughts and some things to think about. Not sure how organized and coherent it will be.
I think all “schools” should be community learning centers that are massive maker spaces and centers of innovation. I believe people learn best by designing and creating. We anchor knowledge by having a physical artifact to connect the new knowledge. If you have to ask, would “this” be in the maker space, the answer is yes. Popsicle sticks, craft foam, cotton balls, yarn, tape, cardboard, PVC pipe, wood, sewing machines, green screen, Arduino, Raspberry Pi, 3D printers, CNC, laser cutter, wood shop, metal shop, recording studio, kitchens...the whole gamut. People have talked about “service learning”, how about “service making” or “making for others”. At the beginning of the year, some of my students used our exploratory period to sew blankets to donate. This shouldn’t happen just in “exploratory period”. A school in Ness City, Kansas is building a Tiny House as a class. The Learning Center should entail big projects that are cross curricular, with mixed age groups. Remember that picture of two paint palettes, life & school, and how in school all the colors are in their separate containers but in life they are all mixed and overlapping. Learning is messy. Learning is also fun, so play should be integral. And nature walks. Every school should have gardens and a greenhouse. Wouldn’t it be great to have a cropbox or two (hydroponics or aeroponics in a shipping container). And beehives, we need beehives.
Failure. As the original Mythbusters said “failure is always an option”. We don’t let kids fail enough. We protect them from it. The only way to actually learn is to “fail” and figure out why, then try again. Iteration (not repetition of 25 math problems) is so important to creation and learning. Fail, fix, fail, fix, fail, fix…. Many have used FAIL as an acronym for “First Attempt In Learning”. If you get it exactly “right” with the first attempt, did you really learn anything or did you already know how to do it? Get used to things not working perfect the first time. Oh, and perfection is not possible, but excellence is attainable.
My friend John Martin (@edventures) and I came up with an idea of “Maker Market School”. The focus of the school would be to run a Farmers Market. Stages at both ends of the market for performances (music, choir, drama, poetry reading, storytelling….). Student booths selling what they make. Students taking orders to make something. Booths showing what they created and talking about how it could be used, like a Maker Faire.
I really like the idea of STEAM : Science Tinkering Engineering Aesthetics Mathematics.
I think every topic and content falls in there. Science has always been about exploring how the world works. Tinkering is learning the approach of figuring out how “things” (physical, technical, social) work. Analyzing them, deconstructing them, reconstructing them. Aesthetics say that when you make something, it needs to look good, sound good, and function well. That can include artistic ideas, music, speech, and ergonomics. There is Math in almost everything.
I think the structure and system of school are hindering us. How old is our system? You can’t “fix” it with one or two little changes. There are many things wrong with our century old system. We need to get away from grade levels, because every kid is not ready at the same time to learn something. And our calendar of every kid taking 180 days to learn a topic is so wrong. We need to get away from grades because they don’t help learning, feedback does, but more importantly learning how to get feedback and self evaluate are best. “Learn to love to learn” as Kevin Honeycutt says. Learn how to learn. I like “real” demonstrations of learning. ePortfolios with an audience other than the teacher could be good, but if students are running a “Farmers Market” that would be awesome. We need less content focus and more learning focus. Collaboration, Communication, Critical Thinking, Creativity, Compassion, Connect, Character should be our core.
We should be about creating a culture of learning, culture of making, culture of innovation.
Pipe dreams? Unrealistic?